Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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March 2, 2015

4 (Mostly) Pain-Free Tips for Marketing Your Book

Kate Moretti

Congratulations! You published a book. It’s out there in the world, all new and shiny, bouncing like the newborn its constantly compared to. The hard part is over, right?

Um… well this is awkward.

Maybe you watch Amazon rank or your Bookscan data or if you’re lucky, get numbers from your publisher and you realize that books don’t sell themselves. That, even though your book is positively brilliant, it’s not flying off the shelves. Every week, you sell a bit less than the week before and you reach a bit more to the outer edges of your existing circles. Your grandmother’s hairdresser likes to read, right? RIGHT?

Panic time.

Marketing your book feels uncomfortable, like you’re the guy at the party with the bad toupee who traps people in a corner, spouting the benefits of a multi-level marketing product.

There are many ways to market a book, not all of them good. In fact, many of them are terrible. You can spam everyone you know on Facebook and Twitter with generic, impersonal messages that include links to your book on every available format. I don’t think you need me to tell you that your toupee is crooked.

But, there are some truly invaluable ways to market your book and although none of them are without effort, they won’t make you feel like you need a shower.

Reach out to other writers

This one is a bit of a *duh* moment. It’s why you’re reading this, and possibly commenting (hopefully commenting!). But take it a step further. Reaching out to strangers can feel awkward. I promise you, reaching out to writers when you are a writer is NEVER awkward. It took me a year to realize this. A YEAR! I’ve always been a book nerd: writers are my rock stars. When I published a book I thought, “who on earth would want to hear from me?”  You know who? Anyone.  Yes, literally any other writer. Writers love readers. We love other writers.  If there is someone you admire, tell them. Find them on social media, share their Facebook posts, retweet their tweets on Twitter, friend them on Goodreads. Go to their book signings, tell them you’re a writer, too. Tell them why you like their work, how they inspired you. They won’t forget it.

Be Open. It’s hard. I’m an oldest child: overachiever, independent, I don’t need anyone, just ask my mother. It’s hard to be open. To say, 'I think you’re great' and 'Let’s be friends'. We’re not ten years old anymore, it’s hard to give admiration with abandon. Do it anyway.

This is the one that never goes away for me. Writers are everywhere. Connect with them, share their audiences and share yours with them as you grow. Never stop reaching up, out, and back. Other writers will be there to catch you when you stumble, but only if you let them.

This is true for book bloggers, too. Reach out, comment on their reviews. Follow your favorite authors around the internet and pay attention to their reviews. Book bloggers are really awesome, fun people who love to read and talk about books. They are our PEOPLE. Love them.


Get out the Elbow Grease

You know what book marketing is like? Building a house with nothing but toothpicks. There’s no one big brick. You get little boosts along the way, but mostly it’s a series of tiny actions (I think my metaphor is falling apart), that altogether add up to a steady stream of readers.

Try everything once: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, buying ads, price point fluctuation (if you can), sales, giveaways. You don’t have to do it all right away, your head will spin. Just pick something and dive in. When you have a handle on it, dive into something else. Do this enough times, and you’ll realize you have a platform!

It’s also fun to explore and figure out new things that attract readers and fans. I live for those moments: finding new readers who come back later and tell me they loved my work? Ahhh, it’s what I do this for!

I recently started up a newsletter. My blog is intermittently maintained and it’s mostly about my kids. I have an active Facebook page, and a growing Twitter following, but I struggle with conferences and signings because of my schedule. I’ve recently taken on Goodreads in earnest and am trying to get the zillions of books I’ve read recently reviewed. It doesn’t matter, it’s all toothpicks. Stack, stack, stack…

No matter what you take on at any time, know this: there is no one thing that sells books. Stop asking for it. Oh wait, there totally is. The New York Times list doesn’t hurt (but for most, is still short lived). A million dollar marketing budget would sell a helluva lotta books. Don’t have that? Hmmmm,… as I was saying: there’s no one thing that sells books.


Be Yourself

More trope advice. No, really. Your own person is your brand. Be that person. On social media, at events, even when you think: everyone is more literary. Everyone here is smarter than me. Everyone here sells a lot more books than I do. Everyone here has better shoes because I just stepped in a puddle.

The thing is, people know when you’re putting on an act. They won’t like you as much. If you’re at an event and everyone is talking about their favorite books and you say Gatsby when really its Twilight, then you’re passing up the awesome opportunity for an instant connection with someone in that room whose favorite book is Breaking Dawn because Twilight was just too simplistic. And you can stumble through the themes of society and class in the 1920’s if you want, but everyone will see through it and you will bore them. If you love Twilight, just say you love Twilight. Newsflash: you’re not the only one. That book sold a billion copies,


Give your book away

Sigh. How many of you just cringed? I’m sorry. It’s true. Unless you’re the walking, talking personification of the adage Everyone has a book in them, you need to believe that your first book will not be the book that gets you a beach house. Yes, it happens. Maybe? Not to anyone I know.

Your first book is the book that introduces YOU, WRITER to the world. It shows readers who you are, gives them a taste of your voice.  This is important, like a long term investment. I’m not saying offer your book, your hard work, free for the taking on your website. Rather, participate in group giveaways (or organize them!), offer to give copies away on other blogs, other writers' Facebook pages, hold contests to boost engagement. There will be times where you feel like you can’t even give your book away. Happily send it off to that one entrant, as though there were a thousand and never do anything but say, THANK YOU. Say thank you a million times. I think of my first book as an audition for my future readers. I’m happy to be here, I hope I earn a spot on your bookshelf.


The bottom line

Marketing your book is one long Sisyphean exercise. Don’t work for every sale. Instead, just be a person who loves to talk about books to other people. And some of those books you gab about are yours! And that’s more than okay, that’s wonderful. Stop asking if this action, right here, this giveaway or this ad or this event or this conference will sell books. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about how many different ways you can reach the same person. Connect with the same reader until eventually they think it’s just kismet.

I had a reader tell me that once: “I see your book everywhere, like I’m meant to buy it! It must be fate!”

Yep, totally fate. Exhausting, carefully engineered fate.

So what do you think? Are the above doable for you? Do you have any other tips for us?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Kate

author photo

Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of the women’s fiction novel, Thought I Knew You. Her second novel Binds That Tie was released in March 2014. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.

She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like. Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.


62 comments on “4 (Mostly) Pain-Free Tips for Marketing Your Book”

  1. Kate, great no-bull post. No matter what anyone tells you (including publishers/editors/agents/marketing gurus) NO one can tell you what sells books. Besides word-of-mouth, that is.

    Your post is about getting your name out there. When people see your name, they think 'oh yeah, I know that author'. That's all I believe marketing can do.

    Although that is a lot! Worth the time and effort we put in. And besides, I'm one who enjoys it.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. Hey Kate--what I love about this post is how you make book marketing sound logical and simple--like, duh. Why NOT speak up about your own book? Thank you for the positive tone & useful suggestions.

    1. Holly, its amazing how long it took me to really get comfortable with it. And honestly, I'm not even entirely comfortable always talking about my own books. But in the context of just talking about reading and being enthusiastic about books in general, it gets MUCH easier. I don't think marketing is simple, but I do think there are ways to ease the self-inflicted stress of it 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  3. Well, shoot. What a wonderful, but frightening blog post. My first novel, Canned and Crushed, is released tomorrow and I've had the vision of a dandelion being blown into the wind. Those little Canned and Crushed seeds landing on fertile little minds, growing more Canned and Crushed dandelions which are then blown into the wind. Now my vision looks a lot more like a box of toothpicks. And they're not even the colorful toothpicks. And I will start tomorrow, building that house. I only hope no one tries to pick their teeth with my building supplies.

    1. Oh, I hope it's not frightening! The goal was to make it seem more doable! 🙂 Marketing in general used to scare the bejesus out of me, but when I realized I could take tiny bites of the apple and much of it just involved opening myself up to other people a bit more (hard for an introvert!), it became so much more manageable. Good luck, I'm looking up your book ASAP!

  4. I especially liked the part about how to delve into one thing at a time instead of trying to do it all at once. One week work on Facebook, another on Twitter...yeah, that's doable!

  5. "Try everything once" — Love this. I have a friend who's been quite successful with her first indie release, and I've noticed her trying out different ad sites, different price points, and different marketing outlets (the only method I have NOT seen her try yet is offering the book for free). But I love the concept of giving new things a try.

    1. I think many people think Oh I have to do ALL OF THIS ALL AT ONCE! And there is this huge overwhelming panic that sets in. I've learned (and am still learning) to enjoy the process and do small things one at a time. Free is generally a stop on the train, but I haven't done it yet either. 🙂

  6. Can't stop for a long comment - I'm off to like your Facebook page and check out some other people and find a whole bunch of other writers to reach out to.
    Seriously - sound advice, Kate. We all know we should do it but these things but so often they end up at the bottom of the to-do list.

  7. Good advice. I've been trying all of those things. So the only thing I have to add to your post is Time! It takes time to build that platform, connections, whatever. In any case keep writing. The more you write the more experience you obtain and the better you write (given attention to blogs like this one! and maybe some classes).

    Hang in there everyone.

    1. Oh Connie, you are SO right! I should have added that! It's been over two years since my first book came out and I'm *STILL* discovering new things (and think I always will). You're 100% right!

  8. Kate, thanks for your candid and practical approaches to book marketing. I don't know what I'd so without my author pals! We support one another in whatever ways we can. It's a long, hard road...but we don't have to make the writing journey alone.

  9. Try everything once....I would love a list of what "everything" is. There is so much out there, it can be overwhelming. Thanks for the post!

    1. I think there is no one list. I think it changes constantly, and while that can be overwhelming, if you keep in mind you don't have to do it all at once, you can keep a hold of your sanity. And constantly try to "meet" new people, both authors and readers. I think much of "everything" comes to you organically, which can reduce the stress. For example, I just read a post on this blog about klout. I created an account and played around with it for about 10 minutes and it seems VERY useful. I will slowly try to incorporate it. But this kind of thing used to stress me out, missing something like this. Now I know it will all come in time. It's much more zen 🙂

  10. Linda, this was particularly hard for me because I tend to be more introverted. I'm trying to make room in my schedule for more face-to-face events, now. This is new(er) and I'm looking forward to it, but it's always a little bit scary to try new things! 🙂

  11. This must have been a terrific post because I felt inspired to take action rather than feeling guilty for not doing enough to market--which is my normal reaction to a "How to Market" post. Thanks for the tips, Kate and good luck with your novels.

    1. Thanks, Pete! This is how I hoped you'd feel! It can be overwhelming, but I think some of that we bring on ourselves. I think if we take a deep breath and realize we can tackle just one thing at a time, it helps. Well, it helps me anyway!

  12. Thanks for sharing great advice, Kate! Authors should take your wisdom to heart, as I know that you, yourself, have certainly earned every ounce of your "BEST-SELLING AUTHOR" status. You work hard...and you're inspiration!

  13. Kate, what a marvelous (and accessible) post! We appreciate you sharing with us and our readers here at WITS. I just approved a ton of comments, so you might want to take a quick peek from the top the next time you come through. 🙂

  14. These are all so do-able! Marketing scares the bejeezus out of me, but I think, like you say, do a little at a time and build a platform, then it won't seem so overwhelming. It also helps you create a steady presence, which I think is important, too. Thanks, Kate

  15. Great advice! I totally agree with "being yourself." Win people over with your personality, and they're naturally going to be curious about your writing 🙂

  16. Great article. I have to admit I am always looking for sticks in the pile of toothpicks to help me build the house a little faster and fatter 🙂

  17. I love your comment about just being the person who loves to talk about books with people who like to read. That was me long before my book ever came out. Great post!

  18. You so understand me! I dread being the person with the bad toupee selling multi-level marketing. I'm almost afraid to write my book because of the fear of marketing it. You have given me great encouragement.

  19. That info is so spot on, Kate. I published my first book nearly two years ago, and it's been a steady trickle of sales. As you say, toothpick on toothpick. There are no magic beans to success. Mind if I reblog this?

  20. Hi Kate! Great post...my book doesn't come out til next year, and I know I told you before I am already overwhelmed with the social media aspect of this adventure. Your whole one day/thing at a time outlook is something I'm sure I'll refer back to. Repeatedly. I tweeted the article so see, there was a double toothpick!!

  21. Hi Kate, thanks so much for sharing your insights with us! Nothing else stops my blood cold like self-promotion. I am like the Cowardly Lion of self-promotion. I sat in a bagel shop once next to a table of ladies talking about cozy mysteries (my genre is historical cozies) and it took me 20 minutes of lurking/listening before I worked up the courage to introduce myself (after a quick "are-there-any-sesame-seeds-stuck-in-my-teeth" check in the mirror). But it worked out great in the end. I gave out bookmarks and business cards, we had a nice conversation, and they seemed genuinely interested. Don't know if that will translate into sales, but it was nice to connect. But in terms of the internet, while it's easier to chat with people online and I love having fun conversations on Facebook and elsewhere, it's ALWAYS hard to say: "hey, I've written these books you might like, and I'd love it if you could check them out!" It feels so awkward. I sure don't want to be THAT PUSHY PERSON who's always saying "buy my book, buy my book."

    Courage. That's what I need! 😉
    Thanks again,

    1. Oh, Kathy!! I was you two years ago, I totally get it. At a birthday party once, someone said OH MY GOSH YOU WRITE BOOKS?! Like I was some kind of ROCK STAR and I said, I have to go to the bathroom.

      It was so hard for me to get comfortable in my own skin. To say, HEY this is pretty cool that I do this and people DO want to know about it. What if someone opened an amazing coffee shop a block from your house that sold the best cappuccino ever made for an affordable price, but you didn't know about it because they were afraid to tell you?!

      I think the thing to adjust is there's a HUGE difference between being pushy and being enthusiastic. The first is obnoxious while the second is completely charming. If you are just yourself and you are open and interact and like other books and laugh and just be A PERSON, you can't be obnoxious. You'll always come off charming. *ahem, I hope*

      GOOD LUCK TO YOU! 🙂 Great to connect!

      1. Thanks, Kate - great to connect with you, too! Glad I'm not the only one who wants to run and hide. Also good to know that it can be overcome. And next time, I'll remember to put on makeup before I leave the house. 😉

  22. Great advice, Kate. Best one - be yourself.
    Love having you on WITS!! 🙂

  23. The toothpick idea is great - I am currently trying to get more "social" and sometimes it seems overwhelming. But you're right, one step at a time. Thanks for the post.

  24. "They won't make you feel like you need a shower" Ha! Agreed, you don't want to go the pushy salesman route. The key is to build up interest in your book before it's even published.

  25. As far as the first book getting you a beach house, the only modern writer I can think of that even comes close is JK Rowling with the first Harry Potter book. Otherwise, no.

  26. Hello Ms. Kate,
    I've just contracted my first novel and have/had no idea what to do next. My publisher is talking Website, blog, twitter, etc--all stuff that I know exists but have never used. I'm on a steep learning curve now and your post was very helpful and JIT.

  27. Thank you for this article. I'm a totally new writer who is still researching marketing and promotion and it all seems so overwhelming. Your post breaks it down into very understandable doable steps that are less overwhelming. Djuna.

  28. Kate, not only is your article inspiring, but so are all the comments from my fellow authors. It's comforting to know we all in the same terrifying boat -- having to promote, promote, promote when we'd rather be hiding in a cave, alone with our writing. Introverts unite! Separately in our own homes sometimes, but still! 🙂

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